New name for the Marine Corps? Legislation to redesignate department advances

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones hopes he's able to garner enough support in the Senate this summer to pass a bill giving the Marine Corps the recognition he thinks the branch deserves.

Jones, a North Carolina Republican whose district includes Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, has introduced legislation in every congressional session since 2001 to rename the Department of the Navy with little success. This year, the bill finally broke through.

John Stump, a Lady's Island resident and former Marine major, said he supported Jones' efforts.

"We have been a fighting force longer than the country has been around," Stump said. "We're a part of the Navy, we'll always be a part of the Navy ... but this is about getting a little recognition."

Termed "The Marine Corps Identity Bill," Jones' legislation to redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps received more co-sponsors than any piece of legislation in the history of the House, Jones' office said. It was passed by a voice vote in the chamber Tuesday.

"My colleagues have shown the Marines that they are appreciated and deserve to be properly recognized," Jones said in a statement. "The Navy and the Marine Corps have always been one fighting team. Nothing is going to change that, but the Marines that have fought and lost their lives for this nation deserved to be officially recognized by the country."

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was among the bill's 415 House co-sponsors. Wilson was unavailable for comment Friday.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the name change will cost less than $500,000 a year.

The Corps has operated as a part of the Navy since its creation in a Philadelphia tavern in 1775.

The legislation must now pass the Senate, where it has some support -- most notably from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who introduced a Senate companion bill -- and some

opposition from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who is a former Marine Corps officer.

"Personally, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Webb was quoted by The Hill as saying. "I did not have any problem being a Marine serving in the Department of the Navy."

A retired Marine captain himself, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy feels similarly.

"It's nice that they want to recognize the Marine Corps, but my experience with the Marine Corps is that Marines don't go looking for outward recognition," said Clancy, a retired Marine captain. "The self-satisfaction of knowing who you are and knowing what you do is more important than having your name on a nameplate somewhere."

The bill is to be taken up in the Senate later this year. If it doesn't pass, Jones again will renew his fight to rename the Navy, said Catherine Fodor, Jones' spokeswoman.

"No matter what happens, however, Rep. Jones is never going to give up and will keep pushing harder," Fodor said.